Category Archives: News

Teachers’ strikes – impact on employers

Many parents rely on schools being open to allow them to go to work. So, what happens when schools unexpectedly close during term time, as will be the case for many schools in Northern Ireland on 21st February and on various other dates in GB when teachers go on strike?

With no way of knowing when there may be an end to the industrial dispute, parents (and their employers) face an uncertain time that is difficult to plan for. What are the options if an employee has childcare difficulties when schools are closed due to teachers taking industrial action? It’s not long ago that we were asking similar questions when children were being sent home from school to isolate because of covid, but there are differences between those circumstances and the current circumstances – mainly that there is more advance notice of the need to put childcare in place in the event of a closure due to strike. Also, finding alternative childcare may not be as difficult where the school is closed due to strike action as it was when the child was off school due to covid.

In this article, we give some tips for employers to consider and suggestions for how an employer might deal with a scenario where an employee has childcare difficulties because of a school closure:-

Plan in advance

Employers may consider reminding their employees that schools may be closed on certain publicised dates and ask them to proactively make early efforts to secure alternative childcare if it is needed on those dates.

Work from home

Employers may receive requests to work from home on days when schools are closed due to industrial action. This is unlikely to be a satisfactory solution where the children are young as it is very difficult to concentrate on work while looking after young children. However, there may be circumstances where an employer may permit a parent to work from home on the day of a school closure.

Annual leave

Employees who need time off to look after their children due to a school closure can request annual leave. Annual leave is generally granted on a “first come, first served” basis. If an employer has lots of employees seeking annual leave to care for children due to school closures, it may not be possible to grant all requests for annual leave.

Unpaid time off to care for a dependant

An employee is entitled to a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to attend to the care of a dependant where there has been unexpected disruption to the caring arrangements. This typically occurs where a child or childminder falls ill or perhaps where a school closes due to heavy snow. Arguably, there should be sufficient advance notice of school closures due to industrial action for employees not to need to avail of this right to emergency time off and an employee should instead be directed to apply for annual leave where possible.


As always, the best approach is for there to be open, early communication between the employer and employee. Early attempts should be made to reach an agreement regarding how any childcare difficulties can be overcome with the minimum of disruption to the workplace.

If you have any queries regarding this article or anything else to do with employment law, please get in touch.

Two Statutory Sick Pay updates in less than a week

The government has introduced two changes to the Statutory Sick Pay scheme in the last few days.

Firstly, last Friday 17th December, it was announced that, to assist GP surgeries roll out the vaccine booster, that employees could self-certify for absences up to 28 days, rather than the usual 7 days. Only if an absence extends beyond 28 days will a GP’s certificate be required.

This is a temporary change applying to absences commencing after 10th December and will apply to all absences starting on or before 26th January 2022. Unless the temporary provision is extended, an employee will again be required to submit a medical certificate to explain absences lasting more than 7 days  for any absence starting on or after 27th January 2022.

Then, just yesterday, it was announced that the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRP) was being reintroduced, to allow employers can claim back Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) in some circumstances where the absence is related to covid-19.

Under the Scheme employers with fewer than 250 employees can claim back from HMRC up to 2 weeks sick pay for each employee for Covid-19 related absence, which could be due either to sickness or to a requirement to self-isolate.

The scheme, which had come to an end on 30th September 2021, will be reintroduced so that employers can claim for COVID-related sickness absences occurring from 21 December 2021 onwards.

This two-week limit per employee will be reset so that an employer will be able to claim up to two weeks per employee regardless of whether they claimed for that employee when the scheme was previously in operation.

Claims will be able to be made from mid-January onwards.

Employers should keep the following records for 3 years if making a claim under the SSPRS:-

-        The dates of absence

-        Which of those dates were qualifying days for SSP

-        The covid-19 related reason for the absence

-        The employee’s National Insurance number

Further guidance is to be published by the government, including information as to how long the SSPRP will run for.

Changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

On Friday 29th May, the following changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention (furlough) Scheme were announced by the Chancellor:-

Closure to new entrants

The scheme will close to new entrants from 30th June.

Anyone participating in flexible furlough from 1st July, will have had to have been furloughed for a minimum of three weeks by 30th June. Therefore, the last date for an employee to be put on furlough for the first time is 10th June.  You must claim for such employees no later than 31st July.

“Flexible furlough”

Until 30th June, it is a condition of the scheme that a furloughed employee must do no work for their employer.

From 1st July, employees will be able to do some work for their employer whilst still staying on furlough.  This is known as “flexible furlough”.

Furloughed employees who start to work part time, will be paid in full by their employer for the hours they work.  The employer will be able to place the employee on furlough for the hours they don’t work (but which they normally did) and make a claim under the Scheme for those hours.

There is no requirement that an employee must resume working from 1st July – just flexibility that they may.

Government contribution being reduced

Employees on furlough must still receive 80% of their wages when on furlough (up to a maximum of £2,500 per month). The employer’s contribution to the furlough pay will increase over time as set out below:-

  July August September October
Government contribution:

employer NICs and pension contributions


Yes No No No
Government contribution:


80% up to £2,500 80% up to £2,500 70% up to £2,187.50 60% up to £1,875
Employer contribution: employer NICs and pension contributions No Yes Yes Yes
Employer contribution:


Not required to contribute provided employee agrees. Not required to contribute provided employee agrees. 10% up to £312.50 20% up to £625
Employee receives (provided they have agreed in writing) no less than: 80% up to £2,500 per month 80% up to £2,500 per month 80% up to £2,500 per month 80% up to £2,500 per month


Reducing pay or topping up pay

As with the current version of the scheme, employers will still be free to choose to top up employee wages above 80% at their own expense if they wish.

If the employee is not going to receive 100% of their wages it is important that they agree in writing to the reduction in wages.

Further guidance to be published

Further guidance on calculating “flexible furlough” pay is to be published by the government on 12th June.



Flexible Furlough – Friday update

In what has become a recurring feature over the last number of weeks, we had a significant government announced on the furlough scheme after 5pm on Friday afternoon.

I recorded this video on Friday evening, giving some initial reaction.

I will be on Facebook Live at 4pm today to answer some questions so visit our Facebook page at 4pm if you have any questions.

Some more video updates

Please see links below to some new videos in relation to the Coronavirus pandemic that may be of interest to employers:-

Update on furlough following the Chancellor’s announcement on 12th May

What if an employee refuses to come back to work because of a health and safety concern?

What if an employee cannot come back to work because schools are closed and they have no childcare?

For more information on these issues or anything else to do with employment law, please contact us.

Video updates

This afternoon I recorded 5 short videos on various topics relating to the covid-19 pandemic and employment law.

I hope these videos are helpful. To discuss any of the issues raised in the videos, or anything else to do with employment law, please contact us